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Betsan Powys | 13:23 UK time, Wednesday, 3 December 2008

"The annual value of television output in English for Wales will have declined by £25 - £30m in real terms between 2006 and 2013, the year before the ITV licence expires".

Whose report, out today, says so? The Broadcasting Advisory Group.

Who they? There are four members: Huw Jones, former Chief Executive of S4C; Julie Barton, former editor of BBC Radio Wales; Geraint Talfan Davies, former Controller of BBC Wales, a man of many hats and Professor Kevin Morgan, Professor of Governance and Development at Cardiff University, an old hand at this task force business.

What was their task? To give the Assembly Government an idea of how you, if you're a television viewer in Wales, can get your news and watch programmes provided by someone other than the BBC. With ITV Wales news dwindling fast, they put it like this: "ensuring that English language television programmes from Wales continue to offer plurality to viewers with regard to news, current affairs and general interest programmes".

Plurality - that's where it's at. How, in Wales, should you go about it?

Here we go.

Broadcasting is not, remember, a devolved issue. It remains the responsibility of the UK government. In fact no-one wants the responsibility for it here thank you very much ... not yet anyway. So as far as any money goes, that should come from the UK government and UK tax payers says the advisory group.

How much? They recommend sticking with that figure of £25-£30m and creating a fund, one that would be divvied up by the Wales Medica Commission, a newly-established body that would be independent from government.

Independent broadcasters, existing broadcasters - S4C, Channel 4, ITV - social enterprises or any combination of the above would bid for a share of the money. They'd use it to provide things like an evening news service, a current affairs programme, documentaries or drama relating to Wales.

The advisory group also raise the possiblity of setting up a completely new channel for Wales in order to maintain distinctive programming in Wales.

Why would the UK government come up with the money? How would they be persuaded to regard Wales, in this instance, as a special case?

The group offer their own answer to that one: "The democratic and cultural deficit described in this report is of sufficient seriousness for it to command a very high level of priority and urgency in the formulation of governemnt policy".

Let me put my head above the parapet and add this: when a weekly government lobby briefing a few weeks ago started promptly at 10.15am every journalist in the room worked for one broadcaster: the BBC.

You might distrust the whole concept of lobby briefings - that, though, is another matter. On this occasion the room filled up pretty quickly with four colleagues, one each from PA, the Western Mail, the Daily Post and ITV Wales.

But was that healthy? No, it wasn't.


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